Last night we went for a drink at Um Fadi’s house. Um Fadi is the mother of Ali Shamlawi, one of the five Hares (name of village) boys who was kidnapped and arrested by the Israeli army from his home during the night in March 2013. Ali was 16 at the time.
A car in the occupied territories crashed into the back of a truck on the 14th of March 2013. The driver of the car, Adva Biton, and her three daughters were seriously injured. The driver was an Israeli returning from an illegal Israeli settlement when the accident took place. The driver later claimed that the accident occurred due to Palestinian youths throwing stones at her car. The truck driver testified immediately after the accident that he had pulled over due to a flat tyre. Later, the testimony was changed to say that he’d seen stones thrown by the road. There were no witnesses to the accident.
Following this, the five Hares boys were violently kidnapped from their homes and detained, charged with 25 counts of attempted murder. The prosecution from the Israeli authorities insisted that the boys had consciously “intended to kill” by throwing stones. The only evidence was signed confessions in Hebrew (a language none of the boys speak) extracted under brutal interrogation.
Found guilty, this simple accident is regarded as an act of terrorism and Adva Biton and her passengers were entitled to substantial compensation.
Initially the boys were to be sentenced for 25 years unless each family could raise €7000, in which case the sentence would be reduced to 15 years. This would have been impossible for the families but in January 2015 an international appeal managed to raise the money and the boys were finally sentenced three years after their arrest. Ali went to court around 50 times.
When the boys will finally be released, if anything happens such as stone throwing in the village of Hares in the five subsequent years, by anyone, they could be sent back to prison for another five years. Let’s not forget that they don’t need evidence to find someone guilty.
It is illegal to move prisoners outside of the occupied territory yet Ali has been in three different prisons outside of the occupied territory. He spent three years awaiting his sentence in Majiddo prison. Last March he was moved to Ramun prison.
His family was allowed to visit him twice a month for 45 minutes. They would talk to him behind a screen with telephones, only allowed physical contact with him once every 5 years. Um Fadi told me that some mothers have been arrested themselves for talking about certain things with their sons when visiting them. She and her family are therefore taking a risk by visiting him.
The current situation
In July this year, Ali was moved to Al Naqqab prison, where the family were only allowed to visit once a month. The last time his parents visited him was the 6th of July. On the 22nd of August, Um Fadi went to visit Ali with her husband but they were refused entry at a checkpoint without being given a reason. When they asked why, they were ignored.
Of 50 people trying to visit prisoners that day 20 were rejected. Um Fadi does not know when she will next be allowed to see her son.
“I can’t describe the effect. I want my son with me. At least I want to see him, to know how he is feeling. When we visit him we can speak to him, know how he is. But now I don’t know anything about him”.
Families are given permission to take a limited amount of clothing twice a year – once in winter and once in summer. The criteria for this clothing is extremely specific, not allowing buttons, zips, or anything black/brown/grey. This makes the task of finding suitable clothing very difficult for the families.
Today we joined Um Fadi, her husband, two of her sons and her daughter at their olive grove to help them with the olive harvest. She spoke to us about the fact that a British embassy representative only attended one court hearing. The representative did not speak to Ali or his parents, but sat at the back and took notes. The hearing was in Hebrew. Um Fadi said that the interpretation was poor, with two or three Arabic words spoken to them for every 20 Hebrew words. The representative did not speak Arabic and reported after the hearing that everything was normal. Um Fadi told me that they hadn’t been able to follow the hearing and had not understood what had happened.
In 2014 Um Fadi travelled to London to speak at the House of Commons. The entire meeting was filmed and you can watch it via the link below. While some good points are raised in the meeting, Um Fadi was not given enough time to recount her story and eventually she was told they “would see what they can do”. Nothing has happened since. I really would recommend watching the video as it gives a lot more insight to her story and the situation as a whole with Palestinian child prisoners.